tv [untitled] April 8, 2012 3:00pm-3:30pm EDT
the famed scientist holds in his left hand a document listing some of his most significant theorys. the same bench contains quotes just to find einstein's unwavering belief in tolerance, equality before the wall, and the duty of any truth seeker to reveal his findings no matter where they lead. the circular for the memorial features a map showing much of the universe as it appeared on the date of its dedication at april 1979. which also coincided with einstein's 100th birthday. 30 years later, visitors of all ages are drawn to the iconic figure on the grounds of the national academy of science. children especially enjoy climbing into the lap of the scientific genius with a smile of a grandfather.
>> there's a new website for american history tv where you can find our schedules and preview our upcoming programs. watch featured video from a regular weekly series as well as access ahtv's history tweets. social media from twitter and four square. follow american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span 3 and online at c-span.org/history. >> every weekend, american history tv brings you oral histories. first-person accounts of the people and events that have shaped our history. recently we've been featuring from the vietnam archive at texas tech university at lubbock. now an exempt from an interview with the oral history project director kelly craiger as he describes the history and importance of the project. >> we can always go back and look at the cold impersonal
documents. the national archives and read the after action reports. all of the reports, but it doesn't really tell us what a wartime experience is like for an individual. like for an individual, whether they served in combat or a support capacity. you can't begin to understand, we as a society can't begin to understand our history until we understand and listen to the people who lived through and helped shape that history. >> 40 years after the first full-scale engagement between u.s. troops and the peoples army of vietnam, the vietnam archive at texas tech university in lubbock interviewed soldiers. it was after thiz battled in 1965 that the north vietnamese forces began to engage in guerrilla warfare. the americans prevailed but at a heavy cost. next an interview with tony nadal.
the only commander with vietnam combat experience. this is about 50 minutes. >> tony, i'd like to start with you just kind of identifying for us what your responsibilities were, your m.o.s. november 14th, 1965. >> i was the captain commander of company a, 1st battalion up 7th cavalry. >> so knowing that that's what you're going to be doing, leading a company into the valley on november 14th, let's back up a little bit. >> okay. >> let's go back to when you first joined the 1st air cav. what month and year? >> i joined in august of '65. i had been in graduate school in oklahoma studying -- no, wait a minute.
let me back up. that was wrong. i had just finished the armored career course. i'm an infantry officer but i was sent to the armored career course. i had finished that course, had gone to ft. benning for pathfinder school and was on home on 30 days leave in oklahoma when orders to korea came in, a rifle company in korea. i had been to vietnam prior to the career course as a special forces detachment commander, and i was very interested in going back to vietnam. if there was a war going on, i'd recommend my company during the wartime than in korea. and after many calls at ft. benning -- after many calls to the personnel office of the
army to try and get my assignment changed, one day i got an unexpected call about 4:00 in the morning that said, report to ft. benning in three days. the reason was that president johnson had decided to send the 1st cav to vietnam, and they were in the process of building up the unit. and so here they had a guy who wanted to go on order somewhere else, and they changed my orders and sent me to the 1st cav. when i reported at ft. benning within that two-week period, there was something like that, you know, i forget the number of officers, 2,000, 3,000 officers reporting in at the same time to fill the division to its full complement of officers.
>> so you volunteered in the strictest sense of the words for this particular -- for vietnam in a troop command? >> that's true. >> you were 18 special forces? >> right. '63-64. >> so you were there during the advisory effort, you saw the changeover to a u.s. ground troops operation, and in between you were in graduate school? >> no. i was in the armored officers career course in between. i went to graduate school after i came back from this assignment, from the calvary. >> you were class of '58? >> class of '58 at west point. >> so the 1st air cav was formed up about 18 months before that, had been undergoing training as an air cav unit. you didn't participate in that training at benning? you got on the boat with them? >> that's correct. >> when did you get your assignment as c.o. of alpha
company? >> that's an interesting story. when i reported in to ft. benning, they had a gymnasium, a big desk set up. the g-1 section was assigning officers. they had a chart and said okay, you'll go there and here and putting names in. i said i want a commander rifle company, and they said well, we don't have one right now. we're going to make you the signal officer of the first brigade. i said, what? i really don't want to be a signal officer. you can do a lot of things with me, but not a signal officer. so i went -- report to the first brigade in a couple days or something. i went awol and went looking for a job and i had a friend who was in the 1st and 7th cav. john henning that commanded b company.
i went down there and went to see the brigade commander of the 3rd brigade and said, i want to command a rifle company. i've been to vietnam and have experience in combat and led patrols and all sorts of things and led ambushes, counterambushes, et cetera. the commander said, this is very unusual for someone to knock on my door looking for a job. what did g-1 section say? they don't know i'm here, sir. they sent me off to the first brigade. you go out and see hal moore. i went to see moore. why are you you? what happened to g-1 section? well, i don't want to go to that. he said, well let me call colonel brown, and colonel brun called the g-1 and said, oh, that's where he is.
they said, okay, you can have him. initially i was the s-2 of the battalion. >> so colonel moore at the time brought you in as an s-2? >> right. >> as an officer of the 1st of the 7th? >> right. and the -- i did that for a couple of months, and then there was -- >> you did that for a couple of months, meaning you did that when you first went to vietnam? >> right. >> okay. >> then a company was commanded by first lieutenant, and there was an incident where -- i had been badgering colonel moore about it. sir, i really want a company. he kept telling me, you'll get
your chance. you'll get your chance. there was an incident where a company lost a soldier through drowning, a company did. colonel moore, i think, made the decision i was senior, but i was also a lot more experienced at the time than that young lieutenant. so he gave me "a" company a company. >> in your battalion. >> let me back up. ray lafay who commanded d company had been an adviser. i don't remember whether he joined us before we went to vietnam or after we got there. once we got to vietnam, there
was an infusion program where they took some services out to the cav and brought in officers that had been advisers, and i don't know whether ray came in that group or he went with us. i'd like to correct something from earlier. this is just a point i want to make. my tour with the special forces was not what you would call an advisory tour. i commanded a camp up in the northeast -- northwest section of south vietnam just south of the ashay valley. there was very little advising done. there was the vietnamese counterpart, but he didn't do anything. basically, i was the camp commander.
i ran it. i led the patrols. i paid the soldiers. i organized the camp defenses. i did everything up there. >> were there vietnamese? >> there was vietnamese soldiers in the main part and vietnamese advisers, the special forces team were vietnamese. in the camp we had a platoon of chinese that were called numes. that's a very interesting story, by the way. it doesn't fit in with this. >> but you had experienced combat in a jungle environment? >> right. >> so your advisory role is what you were listed as at that time, an advisory effort? >> yeah, true. >> so let's talk about this. you went over as the s-2, the battalion s-2, and you get into country and you set up your base.
what was -- tell me a little bit about that s-2 role. that's interesting to me you preceded your command with that. for example, what was the intelligence in that -- >> see, that was -- having been a special forces commander and running that camp, i had been involved in trying to set up intelligence networks. there was a village right below my camp. part of the mission way up near the laotian border, and miles from any support of anyone was defending this little village. so i was involved much more actively than a typical
battalion officer is in developing intelligence. so when i got to the balance tan oni started to look around on k and i contacted the special forces people. there was a special forces camp, and i said, okay, what's my network going to be? well, the army was -- the g-2 division were all surprised. what the hell is this captain doing trying to set up intelligence? as a battalion two my job was to receive intelligence from higher and then develop intelligence really pretty much battlefield intelligence. you get in a fight and capture people, but the issue of locating units and trying to find out what the enemy is up to and so forth, that was viewed as sort of my purview. hal moore thought i was -- i think he liked what i was trying to do, but he thought it was somewhat unusual for me. >> how about your counterparts in s-2s of the other battalions and the brigade? >> they were very much doing the traditional thing.
>> oh, okay. so you're kind of doing your own thing, if you will, trying to -- based on your special forces experience, and why not, because everybody is new in country, too? all these american units are just coming in. their s-2s are brand-new at this, too. you're trying to put together an intelligence network. did you know anything about the pattern of movement into the valley? >> no. that was a long ways away from us, and the -- we had no idea that that was going on -- >> way west of you? >> yeah. i mean, our first awareness of anything happening out in the area was when we heard about the
special forces game that charley beckwith's camp. >> so, when did you get command of the alpha company, what date? >> august. >> you got command in august? >> yeah. i forget the exact date. >> okay. so it was a little bit later in august, then, because you got there -- >> excuse me, no. we got there in august. >> yeah. >> i probably got command in the end of september sometime. >> end of september. so you had about six weeks with your alpha company before you went into x-ray? >> right. the first combat operation i led
was silver bayonette. ffs the first battalion operation it was involved in. it was a big air assault down to a valley down the flats. we went there. it was really kind of a warm-up operation. >> well, you didn't at that time know what was coming. at the time that you went into operation silver bayonette, it was -- >> it was big, several battalions. >> enemy contact? >> very light. i think my rifle company killed the first vietcong killed by the 3rd brigade in the night ambush. >> the enemy was essentially v.c., and there was no evidence of any it the activity on silver bayonnette. >> so you get about six weeks, including an operation like silver bayonnette with youral faye company.
was your alpha company up to t.o.e.? >> no. >> what percent would you say? >> probably 75% to 80%, because a couple things happened. we took with us any soldier who had i think it was two months left in the army was directed to go to vietnam. so we carried with us a whole bunch of soldiers that we knew were going to rotate back home shortly after we got there. the other thing that happened was not only to us but to the whole division, we got hit by a type of malaria which the u.s. army medical corps was unprepared for.
there was intelligence failure of the medical corps, medical intelligence. and the -- you know, the kind of malaria tablet they gave us, which was prhimaquin was very ineffective against this type of malaria. it was very, very virulent. one of my first casualties was a young man at that died next to me. he was evacuated all the way back to hawaii with temperatures above 104 and whatever. it was just bad, bad, bad. >> you came back from that and say it killed him? >> yeah. >> what about your leadership? were you up to speed, up to
t.o.e. with your leaders? >> i had three good, young lieutenants. they were all ranger and airborne qualified. one of the great virtues of the 1st and 7th was the leadership we had. in my army career i have never been in a battalion with as good leadership throughout the battalion as we did in the 1st and 7th 6789. it started with hal moore, who was a superb, superb army officer. but company commanders john herring, a west point classmate, again, ranger airborne, bob edwards, highly qualified, defaye. >> these were your peers at company can level? >> my peers. the battalion 3 was a guy named greg dillon, retired as a colonel. he's probably the best s-3 i've
ever seen. very calm, very good-natured, very competent person, which allowed -- his competence allowed hal moore to spend light more time on the ground leading soldiers and worrying about soldiers and not worrying about communications with the higher he had quarters or developing battle plans because between greg and hal, there was a great deal of mutual confidence and they worked very well together. most of my ncos were at the upper ranks. some were korean war veterans. >> korean war. so they were older, in their mid-30s kind of thing? >> that's right. >> they had been involved in ground combat? >> right. >> in korea. >> in korea. a lot of cibs in the -- you know, when we lined up for a parade, there were a lot of stripes and all that.
>> did you make an effort in putting your unit together once you got it in september to make sure that you had senior nco korean combat veterans in platoons where you had 1st lieutenants or 2nd lieutenants? 1st lieutenants? >> second lieutenants. >> second lieutenants, because they later in the war become one-year and you're first lieutenant but back in the early days it was 18 months or something and it wasn't automatic. did you make an effort to bring in the senior ncos to make sure you had it lined up that way? >> no. i think when i reflect on it, they all were. all my platoon sergeants were all korean war veterans. several of the squad leaders were also.
my -- i had a first lieutenant company exec, george jennings, who was a good guy. >> you had three platoons and a weapons platoon? >> right. >> of the four platoon leaders, second lieutenants, what was the -- do you remember the commissioning sources of those four? >> all -- all my lieutenants were commissioned through ocs, but the three platoon rifle leaders all were college graduates. >> but all ocs, but ocs but college graduates? >> right. >> that means they had gone to universities that either didn't have rotc programs or they elected to not be in rotc?
>> right. >> they had all been commissioned through the infantry, u.s. army infantry school in ft. benning for ocs? >> right. >> interesting, interesting. can you tell me without thinking too hard about it through the other -- through the other companies and the battalion, was that typical leadership for this commission? >> there was -- yeah. we had -- the platoon leaders throughout the battalion came out of primarily one class of the ocs at ft. benning, one and two classes. these guys had been together through ocs as a group. i think because they fill up the cav all at once, all you kids graduating today, you go to the first cav.
we got a whole bunch of guys. many of them -- i can't think of one who was not a college graduate. >> well, forgive me for dwelling on that. >> that's fine. >> it's of interest to me, and there's been a lot of studying down about that, some of which are mine. that's why i'm asking these questions. >> i had a chance recently to speak -- one of my lieutenants, joe marm, won the medal of honor. he invited me to speak to a reunion with ocs class. and it was great for me, because i was able to say, you know, i have admired you all and i've seen you and many of you have seen in perilous conditions in combat.
i have a great deal of affection for all of you. i do for that because i knew many of those young men under the stress of battle. >> interesting, interesting. so you've got your -- you've got your ocs-trained korean war veteran ncos. you've got six weeks of getting to know your troops including operation silver bayonet. which was probably exactly what you needed in the sense that the troops feared they were out there but the amount of activity was low. and so then you're back in base camp, and you get word that there's another operation, and you're going to move to stage for that? >> yeah. let me say something about my assumption of command.
the troops knew -- one of the things that i did before i -- we'd got to vietnam, when i joined the battalion, hal moore knew that i -- my background in special forces and all this, and i had been an avid reader of counterinsurgency operation books and so forth. i read a lot. i brought this foot locker full of books with me when i joined the battalion. so he had me give can classes at benning on counterambush drills and a lot of things which i'd learned in special forces and also through my reading. there was a good little book the british put out called "the small war's manual." it was much better than anything the u.s. army had about counterinsurgency. i had a copy of that, and so i taught a lot of classes. so the troops of battalion knew me, and they knew, you know, my background and whatever.
when i joined the company, what i'm told by the soldiers -- i have been told this for 40 years now -- is it was a great deal of relief and enthusiasm for my arrival because they felt we're not -- we're getting an experienced guy with combat experience, which i thought was better for them. >> absolutely. so let's talk about november 13th. >> okay. >> the day before you will assault into x-ray. what was involved that day in terms of your role? >> well, can i back up for a couple of days? when we -- we went to plakou, and you have to remember it was under siege. the cav went up there with artillery primarily and supported the battle. the 1st brigade went in and looked for the enemy and didn't really didn't find him, but they found some, the ninth cav found
the hospital and they're going to fight one night a tough fight. so the picture to us was the enemy's here. we haven't found him in numbers, but we found -- we've had one big company-sized fight and they found a hospital and all this other stuff. the 1st brigade was there for about two weeks, and then they brought us in. they said, okay, you are going to go look in this area. well, they put us in that area, and we broke down by companies. this was not near x-ray. this was east of the x-ray. so we spent about ten days doing small unit platoon-sized patrols over this big area looking for the enemy. we did not find him. we were due to be pulled out two days hencebe